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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 November 2002
One of the best Biggles stories published, I re-read this thirty years after my first acquaintance with the series. Remarkably, the adventure remains untarnished by time, and the dialogue, though now having acquired a period charm, is still fresh and witty.
Johns clearly relishes the idea of the "underdogs" taking on the big boys and winning, through a combination of guile, wit and guts.
What I missed the first time was the reference to the then-contemporary political scene. At this time both Hitler and Mussolini were annexing smaller, relatively defenceless countries against a background of political appeasement and, in some cases, upper-class British admiration. It must have taken some guts to write (and get published) a childrens' book which so clearly takes a stand against totalitarian expansionism.
For Maltovia, read Austria, Czechoslovakia or Finland - for the Lovitznian aggressors, read Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.
In contrast to the real situation in the thirties, where the countries mentioned above were modern republics undermined by multi-party factionalism, the Maltovians are fiercely monarchical and deeply traditionalist.
Thus, Johns looks back with some yearning to the European "Ancien regime " that disappeared with the First World War - numbering among his characters a beautiful Crown Princess, a stuffy but good-hearted Courtier and a spruce young gadfly officer in the "Prisoner of Zenda" mould.
Throw in the usual wolf-ish and unprincipled villains, a race against time, a hilarious escape and much tapping of cigarettes on the back of hands, and you have a short (by modern standards) but thoroughly enjoyable read.
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on 15 June 2011
And good luck to him.

This is one of a very few marvellous, snappy little Biggles novels which are every bit as good as the unputdownable WW1 exploits. Biggles Goes To War gets right down to business and appeals instantly in two ways.

Firstly, Biggles and his comrades are defending traditional values against totalitarianism and secondly, they show that common sense and action can always do something about it. A common theme in Biggles' stories, naturally, but particularly resonant when the book was written.

In a nutshell, we share the adventure and the purpose more than usual - get it, it's brief but terrific!
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on 28 March 2001
The feel of the 'thirties' comes through strongly in what is an interesting and enjoyable book. As the title suggests, it is a war story but set in a small non-existant european country and combines aerial dogfights with a spy story, including a daring rescue and manhunt within a hostile country. One of W E Johns better yarns - well worth reading.
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on 29 January 2017

Although arguably a lesser entry in the Biggles canon (owing to its inter-war timing and reliance upon fictional states and circumstances), 1937’s ‘Goes to War’ remains a gripping page-turner that highlight’s W.E. John’s talent for clever plotting and hair-raising events and action.

The plot revolves around James Bigglesworth and his pals agreeing to add much-needed support to the state of Maltovia which is facing hostile intentions from its neighbour, Lovitzna. Although Biggles is initially reluctant to assist, the deal is sealed when he is warned off by the Lovitznian Minister in London, Zarovich. When will these foreign ‘toughs’ learn that such bully-boy shenanigans serve only as a red-rag-to-a-bull when it comes to chaps like our James? Thus, off our boys fly and become embroiled in double-dealing (in the form of duplicitous General Bethstein), saving a damsel in distress (the beautiful Maltovian Princess, Marianna) and bombing bridges. It’s terrific stuff and would have served as a rip-roaring read for on its initial release in a nation knowingly poised on the brink of another conflict ‘thanks’ to a Lovitznan-esque aggressor to the right of France.

Where ‘Biggles Goes to War’ falls short of the classics in the series is its need to use fictional rather than real nations. Of course, it would have been diplomatically dangerous to substitute Maltovia for Czechoslovakia and Lovitzna for Germany in 1937. However, this would have given the story much more ‘edge’. Indeed, it is the fact that Biggles is pitted against the Nazis in such bona-fide mini-masterpieces as ‘Biggles Defies the Swastika’ that makes the stories penned during the Second World War so much more compelling. Others will point to the rather pantomime characterisation of the baddies here as a limitations. Indeed, Bethstein’s bad intentions are obvious from the moment that he arrives on the scene. Thus, why is it only our fly boys who can see through him?

However, setting aside such quibbles, there is much to enjoy in BGTW. The plan to destroy the connecting bridge between the two nations with a Lovitznian plane is a stroke of genius. Likewise, it is tiny-but-pivotal details (and their consequences) such as Ginger needing to travel on the floor of a two-man plane that makes these novels such a joy. This, plus thrilling scenes including a terrific heart-in-the-mouth / bold-as-brass rescue from a hotel and the threat from a pack of hungry wolves (no less) all adds up to a great page-turner.

Therefore, whilst it falls short of ranking amongst the very best of Biggles’ adventures, ‘Biggles Goes to War’ flies high in its own right!

Barty’s Score: 8/10
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on 18 February 2013
Biggles Goes To War is an amazing insight into flying between WW1 and WW2. It is extremely well written,and would make an excellent film. I personally feel that WE Johns, the author, should be one of our most highly acclaimed authors because he combines his talent for description with exceptional knowledge of aircraft. I have read these as a child, and coming back to them some thirty years later have more admiration for the Biggles books than I did then.
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on 20 July 2015
A story with plenty of action but with a dash of 'The Prisoner of Zenda' about it which really adds to the flavour of the book - dashing Englishmen coming to the rescue of the ruling Princess of a small nation.Aircraft rather than swords but still life or death conflicts . Great stuff !
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on 9 November 2013
My husband read all the Biggles books while still a boy and really enjoyed the series, he would recommend them to men and boys of all ages as they are full of adventure
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on 17 February 2016
One I'd missed before - a pre-war adventure to a Zenda-like country where Biggles shows how he can win wars if only they'd give him his head. Very enjoyable
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on 22 January 2010
my husband likes the biggles books as they make himlaugh. They dont have all the biggles books in the library so he had to buy some from Amazon!! They also make him relax plus while he is reading it stops him keep talking to me, so that I can concentrate to read too!!!
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on 14 March 2015
My father bought this for my son. They have enjoyed discussing the content.
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